The Jewish diaspora can be viewed as a natural process in population dispersion and differentiation. We extend genetic studies on the Jewish diaspora to an analysis of human leukocyte antigen (HLA) haplotype distributions in the Jewish peoples, and show the value of this information for the design of Jewish marrow donor registries. HLA data from the Hadassah Bone Marrow Registry having parental country-of-origin information comprise samples of geographically discrete regions. We analyzed the HLA allele and haplotype frequencies for each national sample using population genetic and clustering methods. Population differentiation among diaspora populations was shown on the basis of HLA haplotype frequencies, including differences within the more recently diverged European groups. A method of haplotype and population clustering showed patterns of unique haplotype affinities associated with specific Jewish populations. The evidence showed that diaspora Jewish populations can be sorted into distinct clades of which the Ashkenazi are but one. Relationships among Jewish populations are interpretable in light of the historical record. We suggest that a major contributing factor to the genetic divergence between Jewish groups may have been admixture with local host populations, while, at the same time, threads of Eastern Mediterranean ancestry remain evident.
© 2010 John Wiley & Sons A/S.